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By Paul Windmill
Director
Posted on: 19 December 2017

The Five Most Absurd Taxes in History

Standard, well known taxes transfer money to the government in a straightforward way. However, absurd taxes make way for the occurrence of absurd behaviour.

Standard taxes include for example, Stamp Duty. This discourages the older generation from downsizing their properties, and therefore forces them to occupy properties that are too large. However, the recent Autumn Budget has brought with it the potential abolishment of such tax for first time buyers, reducing initial costs for them substantially.

Inheritance Tax falls most commonly on the less well off, as the rich are more able to gift their assets before they pass away, whereas the more moderately off have only their house to entrust.

Finally, Corporation Tax. All UK limited companies are obliged to pay this tax. The tax is charged as a percentage of the company’s annual profits.

So, the first most absurd tax falls with wallpaper tax. A tax introduced in 1712 to take advantage of the growing popularity of the purchasing of wallpaper. However, some had a way of evading this tax. Purchasing undecorated, untaxed wallpaper, and having it then stencilled and painted by hand made it possible to avoid the tax. The tax was then abolished in 1836.

The second is the window tax. Introduced in 1696, the thinking behind it was the more windows you acquired, the larger the house you owned, the more wealthy you were. However, the tax was not taken lightly, and was repealed in 1851. Campaigners argued that it was a tax on health and an unequal tax, with the greatest burden on the middle and lower classes. The tax was eradicated in 1851 due to surplus windows being bricked up.

The third is the hat and wig tax, both introduced in the late 18th century. The idea behind both was to squeeze the rich, many of whom wore such items due to their then expensive price tag. However, the tax ended in 1811 due to the plummet of those wearing hats and wigs and therefore the decline of the flourishing wig industry.

Finally a gin tax.  This tax was introduced due to the ever increasing gin craze in 1742. The result, was the reduction in legal gin, and the rise of illicit brands, all containing a mix of turpentine spirit and sulphuric acid. Blindness was a common side effect.

Paul Windmill
Director

Paul has over 25 years’ experience working with a wide portfolio of clients, both very large and small across the South East. Paul advises on corporation tax planning and remuneration planning for company directors and senior management, as well